Leeds International Festival: Sustainability Challenge - Chapter 81
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February 6, 2020

Leeds International Festival: Sustainability Challenge

Leeds International Festival: Sustainability Challenge Leeds International Festival: Sustainability Challenge
Words by: Phoebe Ryan

This January we launched a Sustainability Challenge on the Leeds International Festival social channels, run by our clients LeedsBID, in the run up to their annual festival taking place 30th April – 9th May.

With this year’s theme being Generation Future, lots of the events focus around what we can do to make sure there even is a world for Generation Future to live in. We’ve been exploring those small, incremental changes we can all make to move away from single-use, wasteful items and move towards recycling, reusing, and generally being more conscious of the impact of our daily habits.

Rosie’s January

“I’ve long been a big fan of my reusable water bottle and coffee cup, and have been using solid shampoo, conditioner and body wash for over a year too (bye bye, shower clutter), so I’ve been trying to find some more ways to live more sustainably. I’m a big tea drinker, so I bought some loose leaf to avoid the plastic in tea bags, which was a much easier swap than I thought as I’ve been using a tea infuser for single cups and a pot and tea strainer for more. It’s very simple to clean too! 

Although I generally eat vegetarian at home already, I’ve tried to consider which seasonal vegetables I could be using, which has been quite difficult in winter (especially for variety in fruit) but I have had some surprising successes that I wouldn’t have otherwise tried. I was looking through my recipe books and tried a kale pizza recipe which I wasn’t too sure about but turned out to be one of my favourites so far. I’ve also found loads of resources online that tell you what is in season and when, to make it easier. 

I’ve also been trying to increasingly shop secondhand. This was especially easy when I was walking through Headingley, as there are plenty of charity shops to choose from and find some new treasures! I was given the first in a series of novels for Christmas, and I’ve managed to buy the next two books secondhand at Oxfam Books in Headingley, for a quarter of the price they would be new, and in great condition! I’ve definitely found that there are loads of places in Leeds to buy good quality secondhand and vintage, if you have the time to go and search for what you want.”

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Phoebe’s January

“I drew the short straw and got the challenge to give up single-use plastics for January! I know this is something we should all be conscious of anyway, but it really hasn’t been that easy. Supermarket shops have been limiting, and I’ve had to shop around a bit to get more of what I want. Booth’s is a classy North Yorks/Lancs/Cumbria supermarket, and I’ve had to shop there a bit more (no problems for taste, but it does cost a bit more than my usual haunt Aldi)! 

The main problem that I’ve continually run into this month is cost. I’m lucky enough to just about be able to make these choices based on selectively choosing products without plastic packaging – for one month anyway – but the costs have been high, and I think anyone already struggling financially in our current political climate is not going to be able to justify the higher cost, just for a product without plastic. We’ve been trying to buy Ecover and Method products for household cleaning anyway, but Booth’s has just started the refilling service too so I will use that when my bottles are empty. Another great option (and a lot cheaper!) is vinegar mixed with water, for lots of household cleaning (works a charm for cleaning glass!) and also we have a Bokashi composting bin, where you can put all of your food waste, from fruit and veg peelings to bones – and the ‘tea’ (urgh! Shall we not call it tea?) that you drain off the bottom of this is amazing for cleaning the toilet, and for adding to your watering can as a fertiliser for your plants.

I’ve also found that there are more moral quandaries than I was expecting. Being a foodie, I usually try to buy seasonal, British produce wherever possible (though my household is definitely a sucker for a bunch of bananas, too). That means I should be buying kale, cabbage, brussels sprouts, apples, and pears, right now. In Aldi, I couldn’t find ANY of these without plastic packaging! Instead I had to choose peppers, melon, pineapple and grapefruit. Fruits and veg shipped from around the world, the nearest from Spain and the furthest, I think, from Costa Rica! I also had to make the choice between organic, fairtrade bananas – in plastic packaging – and totally unlabelled, loose ones. I’m not sure I’d opt for plastic-free loose bananas again when the alternative -fairtrade and organic – is better for people and better for the planet. These are choices I don’t think we should be having to choose between in the supermarket!  

On the plus side, I noticed Aldi are stocking compostable bags at the checkouts. I had brought my own canvas ones, and I know the amount of us buying plastic bags regularly has plummeted since charges were put in place, but it’s still great to know that you can choose a cheap compostable bag at checkouts if you forget your reusable one.

As for toiletries, I made the rule that I wouldn’t buy any new plastics this month – but I thought it would be wasteful (and extortionately expensive!) to replace all the toiletries that I am currently using, even if they are wrapped in plastic. I carried on with my solid bar shampoo (I definitely think it’s decent stuff, and you can get really natural varieties if you have a sensitive head like I do!), and used bar soaps instead of shower gels in bottles. I was also much more conscious on my recent holiday, in terms of avoiding any toiletry miniatures (if we’re going to use plastic, we may as well choose the biggest container so that it minimises the amount of plastic per use we use), and avoiding plastic bottles. I tend to always carry a reusable water bottle and a reusable coffee cup, and I will definitely keep doing that! I also bought a little ‘hot pot’ container for my son’s lunch box – so I don’t have to wrap up anything inside his lunchbox. We bought a beeswax foodfilm cover to use instead of clingfilm (which we’ve been avoiding for a long time), and can definitely recommend that too! We already use WhoGivesACrap environmentally-friendly toilet paper, which I totally recommend.

This week I decided to do a vegan, gluten-free week, too. I don’t think everybody moving to veganism is the answer, as it puts different strains on different ecosystems – but I think it’s pretty clear that everybody eating less meat would be a really positive course. (I’ve also been reading up about the perils of gluten in Grain Brain – a fascinating medical study about the neurological impact of gluten. Terrible news for bread lovers like me). Full-time veganism requires a bit of foresight, to ensure you get all of the nutrients you need in your diet (although it’s by no means impossible, as stubborn meat eaters used to claim), but I feel like we could all go vegan for a few days a week, for sure, with little effort at all! I’m definitely planning on keeping it up.

Challenges I’ve not hit head-on this month: I wear (monthly) contact lenses. I’m happy with the fit and variety I’m using right now, but they definitely come with lots of plastic waste (the bottles of cleansing fluid, the new case every month, the little plastic case the lenses first come in…) so it’s something to consider. I also need to sort out environmentally friendly period products (been putting that one off for ages). And the electric toothbrush and its plastic heads…oh, the list goes on. It’s easy to get bogged down in what you’re not doing! But I guess if we all just committed to a few things, it’d make a massive difference. So that’s enough for me right now.”

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Simon’s January

“The idea for the Jan campaign came about with a meeting on Social for Leeds International Festival back in November. Inspired by the themes of the initial three events we released (A Generation to Cool the World, Living in a Future City and Lumen Arts Project), we decided to create a January campaign about our theme Generation Future – how the make sure the world is still a great place to be for that generation – as well as showcasing some amazing things in the city, whilst engaging a new audience. As a team we got the campaign signed off and decided on an organic approach. No advertising or branded assets. 

Through this thought process I decided that I wanted to make changes to my life anyway, in terms of some of the challenges, and actually wanted to learn things, as well as trying to make that work/life balance much better. 

My main focus was to eat less meat. I haven’t cooked meat (although I have made fish) at home for over 6 weeks now, and only eat meat when I eat out. I was brought up on meat and two veg, so this was actually harder than I thought. But making sure I batch cook (I successfully made mushroom, red lentil and carrot soups for work) or make a veg ragu base (which I’ve found adapts easily into a curry, chilli, or pasta dish) was okay. I found my love of cooking again. I will definitely be carrying this on! Living on your own, cooking can easily become a chore, or I find I can overeat, cooking a massive lasagne and just going back for more and more and more. I also loved experimenting with pestos; great to use on pasta or on a nice piece of fish. You can mix it into dips, put it on toast – lots of amazing things. 

I have made some product changes too. I switched to Ecover laundry liquid, and plan on switching up more household stuff. I have moved to Who Gives a Crap toilet paper, which is great, and I’ve actually questioned other products for the first time. For me, it is about that thought process. That has been the biggest difference.

My reusable cup has been with me everyday. It really is easy! For some reason I thought it was a chore. I actually ended up buying a couple of new ones – the first was made from coffee waste (but the lid just didn’t work), so I switched to a Frank Green Ceramic one which has been amazing, looks great, keeps it warm and doesn’t spill in the bag.   

In the C81 office we’ve tried to be more energy-conscious, keeping the heating at 21 apart from one day which was very cold. The office is in a single-glazed grade 2 listed building, so heat can escape very quickly and January has been hit-and-miss with the weather. 

For the shop local challenge, I have made a bigger effort to shop in the market whenever I can, which makes a lot of sense with the office being over the markets. This has the added bonus of using the car less on a bigger shop, too. I have also been to the great Blacker Hall Farmshop twice, and have my next trip planned too, but I plan those in when doing some culture seeking (it’s not far from Yorkshire Sculpture Park).

I also made the switch at home to 100% green energy supplier, Octopus energy. Ever since working for the Environment Agency years ago, I have had a keen eye on doing some volunteering, and going tree planting was something I fancied as it both makes a difference to the environment and also spruces up an area.  The Conservation Volunteers have a few sites in Leeds, and it just happened that they needed help in January, so the office had a trip out to tree plant!

The January campaign was about creating sustainable futures for ourselves individually, too. I made a pact to see friends more, and ‘do’ more stuff with them. More walks (great to blow away the cobwebs) and more culture, with regular trips to the Yorkshire Sculpture Park and Malham planned. Speaking of friends, Leave No Trace saw the work we were doing on cutting down on plastic, and how we were emphasising the small steps. She sent through some amazing no plastic gifts for the office – see the picture of the great bamboo cutlery kit – I can’t wait to try mine. Check them out for sustainable gifts and everyday essentials.

Looking forward, sustainable workwear is a thing. We need branded gear to be recognisable for festivals, so I’ll be looking into that. That’s going to take me more time to think through, but we want to make a difference, and with a busy summer coming up, we will be needing new stuff. 

Overall it’s actually been less tough than I thought it would be to make these changes, and it’s made me consider some of the choices we make everyday more deeply. I’ve made some easy changes, and won’t look back (especially on Who Gives a Crap and using Octopus) – they’re a no-brainer. Most of all it’s inspired me to keep thinking about these things, and try to make more informed choices in the future.”

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Beverley’s January

“When we started the #WeAreGenerationFuture campaign at the beginning of January, I already kind of knew it would be easier for me than for others. I’m already pescatarian, so eating less meat was simple, I always remember my reusable tote bag, and I’ve been using the Trainline app for years so going paperless was a breeze.

Having said that, I’ve had to make a conscious effort to remember my reusable coffee cup (despite owning one for over a year) and as a social media manager taking a social media detox on 29th January was basically impossible.

One thing I’ve really loved about running and taking part in this campaign is that it’s inspired me to cook new things (I’ve done so much batch-cooking my freezer’s full!), lean more towards vegetarianism than pescatarianism, and it felt great to spend some time outdoors (and give back to the community) by planting some trees.”


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